Sunday, June 14, 2009
Fullmetal Alchemist, vol. 1
After discovering Hiromu Arakawa's art in the newly licensed Hero Tales in Yen Plus magazine, I decided to finally check out her "other" series -- the wildly popular Fullmetal Alchemist.
The story: Alphonse and Edward Elric are teenage brothers and alchemists. Both survived a horrific accident when they were younger and attempted to resurrect their dead mother. In surviving the accident both brothers were afflicted -- Edward has two metal prosthetics, while Al is simply a soul in a suit of armor. Their story starts with the discovery of a priest abusing the powers of alchemy and then quickly goes into the boys' history and their search for the philospher's stone.
Reaction: Since I was only mildly familiar with this story, I was curious to see what all the fuss was about. In this first volume, I quickly learned about alchemy, the Elric brothers' past and the quest they're on. While some series might hit you over the head with expository dialog to set this all up, it never seemed to come off as unnatural or overly explanatory in this book. Additionally, there was just as much "showing" as "telling" when it came to the flashbacks. Also, while the Elrics' story is sad, they don't dwell on it and neither does Arakawa, providing a humorous balance by making Edward overly sensitive to comments about his height (or lack thereof).
Deep thoughts: As a precursor to chemistry in the Middle Ages, alchemy has no place in modern science. However, creating an entirely new element through the manipulation of another is a fascinating concept. Of course, the philosopher's stone that Edward and Alphonse pursue here is referenced in several other works, including various books and movies, as well as cited by early scientists such as Sir Isaac Newton.
Artwork: Edward Elric has one of the most expressive faces in all of manga! He can go from defeat to rage to smugness so easily. The other characters and their costumes are designed well, too, making it easy to differentiate one person from another.
The verdict: Highly recommended. I can't believe it took me so long to discover this interesting series. While I know the Elrics' quest to restore themselves will be a long one, I think I'm willing to go along for the ride. Fullmetal Alchemist is available in the U.S. from Viz.